National Empanada Day

Good morning, friends. Happy Sunday! Hope you’re all having a fantastic weekend so far. If you’re wondering what to do this Sunday Funday I’ve got one word for ya – empanadas. Today is National Empanada Day and I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to share my family’s empanada recipe. 🙂

If you’re wondering what an empanada is – I got you. An empanada is a stuffed pastry that is normally baked or fried. They’re basically delicious little pockets of meat, cheese, corn, chicken, etc. stuffed and fried (or baked) to golden brown perfection. You’ve probably seen or heard of these at least once in your life. They go by different names depending on where you’re from or who’s making them. The most common names I’ve heard them go by are beef turnovers, beef patties, empanadas, and pastelillos.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s a wrong way to make these. You can customize the stuffing to your family’s taste. I’m going to share how I traditionally make beef empanadas at home but feel free to leave out, add, or change it up how you’d like. I fry mine because I would fry everything if I could, but you can also choose to bake yours. Just place the empanadas on parchment-lined baking sheets, brush the tops with an egg wash (avoid the edges) and bake at 400° until golden brown (probably about 30-40 minutes). Also, just a heads up, because I learned this watching my mother in the kitchen, I don’t have exact measurements. I’ll give my best estimate of what I think should go in but please, season to your taste. I promise it’ll be fantastic.

Cast of Characters:

  • 1 pkg. of Goya Empanada Discs (frozen aisle – hispanic section) – there are recipes out there to make the dough but these are just as delicious and quicker
  • 1 lb. Ground Beef
  • Adobo (all purpose seasoning) – it’s basically seasoning salt so I would say salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 2 tbsp. Sofrito – you may not have this laying around – it’s traditionally a blended mixture of cilantro, recao (culantro), onions, green peppers, garlic, and tomatoes – I make mine but there are pre-made jars available in your local grocery store. If you can’t find it or just want to stick with what you have at home, it’s truly about seasoning – just sub in what you have!
  • 1 packet of Sazon
  • Diced Pimentos – to taste
  • 1 Potato
  • Oil for frying

Optional Add-Ins:

  • Green Olives
  • Tomato Sauce (I use half a can)
  • Red Chili Flakes (we like our spicy)

Remember that your empanada discs should be defrosted so they’re pliable and easy to work with. This will not work with frozen discs. I keep mine in the fridge until I’m ready to stuff. If you leave them out too long they’ll get too sticky.

So, first thing’s first, brown zee meat. Normally while I have the meat browning, I peel and chop my potato into cubes (the bigger the cubes, the longer it will take for them to cook through). I also halve my olives. You’re welcome to add them whole, I just prefer smaller bites.

Once the meat is browned, drain the grease and return pan to medium heat. If you have the sofrito mixture, this is where I add it and let the meat saute in it a little (kind of like you’re trying to saute the onions/garlic/peppers that are in there to bring out the flavor). Once it becomes aromatic – I’d say about 2-3 minutes – you can add in the rest of your ingredients and stir it up! At this point, your meat mixture should kind of look like this:

Now is when I lower the heat to the lowest possible setting, put the lid on, and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes. How long you let it cook will depend on how big you cut your potatoes and how long it takes for them to cook through. Once your potatoes are cooked through, remove from heat and let it cool for a minute.

Now, we stuff. My assembly line goes as follows: pot of meat mixture & spoon, cutting board to lay and stuff discs, plate to lay stuffed discs. Ready? Let’s go! There’s a plastic square in between each disc to keep them from sticking to each other. I actually re-use these on my plate to lay the empanada on to also keep them from sticking to each other (you’ll see in the picture). So, I take the disc and lay it on my cutting board and spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of the meat mixture into the center.

A couple of things to note here: How much you stuff it is up to you, I like mine meaty BUT you have to remember that it needs to fit in the center so you can close and crimp the sides easily and the more stuffed they are, the harder it’ll be to get an even fry – not a big deal if you’re baking – but since I fry, I normally to have spoon some oil over it to get all the edges that wouldn’t touch since mine are so fat.

Once the meat mixture is in, you’ll fold it over to create a little half moon pocket. I seal the edges with my fingers so it’ll lay closed. Then, I fully seal the edges by crimping it with a fork (see below). Move your completed patty to the plate and on to the next one! The Goya package includes 10 discs. I normally stuff all 10 but only cook up about half and freeze the other half for another day! These freeze beautifully and are super easy to re-heat. Just pull out of the freezer, defrost, and fry those bad boys up! If you’re worried about them sticking, just wrap each one in some parchment paper before throwing them into a ziplock freezer bag.

Now we’re ready to fry! We’re so close I can almost taste it! Pour the oil into your frying pan and bring to medium heat. While the pan is heating up, grab a plate and line with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Carefully drop in your little meat pockets and smell the deliciousness you’ve created. Be sure to watch these! Depending on how hot your oil is these fry up fast and can go from golden brown to burnt real quick. Once you see the bottom is starting to look golden, flip them over! Once both sides are beautifully golden brown, use some tongs to remove and place onto your lined plate. Continue with the next batch and so on and so forth. At the end, you’ll have these beautiful little guys.

They will be HOT so give them a minute. I know it’s hard. Resist. I believe in you.

These can be served as a side to your lunch or dinner but I eat these as is. Just give me an empanada and an ice cold Coke and I’m a happy girl. My hubby likes to drench his in hot sauce. Some people dip theirs in chimichurri. If you have picky eaters, my mom used to stuff these with cheddar cheese (kind of like a Spanish grilled cheese) or some days she’d do pepperoni, marinara, and mozzarella. Ya’ll, pizza empanadas are LEGIT. That’s what’s so amazing about these things, you can customize them however you like and they’ll be delicious no matter what. Now, go and celebrate the deliciousness that is National Empanada Day. If you try these for yourself, please report back! I want to hear about all the different variations you guys make so I can get some ideas for next time.


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